Skip to main content

MBA vs masters: which is right for me?

3 April 2019
Choosing to do a business master’s degree is a significant decision
Once you’ve decided to pursue postgraduate study, the next challenge lies in finding the right course. Here we outline the differences between an MBA and specialised master’s, and why you may choose one over the other.

The answer ultimately comes down to where you are now and where you want to go. Outlined below are some of the business master’s options available with information on how these different courses can benefit different career aspirations.


What is an MBA?

An MBA stands for a Master of Business Administration (MBA), so it is actually another form of a master’s degree. We offer a part-time and full-time MBA, however rather than the difference being the study mode they are two completely different degrees.

Claire Taylor

Claire Taylor

Current part-time MBA student

Head of Advocacy and External Relations, Royal Far West

Our part-time MBA consists of 7 core units of study, 4 electives and an industry capstone unit, whereas the full-time MBA has 11 core units of study, an industry capstone unit and no electives.

“I see my path as leading with purpose and inspiring change. I have accepted that this path is not going to be linear, and may never be clear. As I embark on my journey, the skills I am gaining through the MBA will empower me to take bigger risks - to be a more valuable leader and to embrace the unknown.”

Why study an MBA?

Many students opt to do an MBA for its international standing and strong reputation around the world. Graduates also benefit financially from the educational investment, with graduate MBA salaries averaging above $140,000.

MBAs attract a mix of students from diverse backgrounds, far beyond traditional business roles. With a strong focus on developing technical, personal and interpersonal skills needed to lead, our MBA's are designed for professionals with 3-5 years of relevant experience looking to take their career to the next level, make a career change or break into senior management.

Kathryn Harris, current full-time MBA student

The Executive MBA

Executive MBAs have been specifically designed for senior executives with at least 10 years of experience. These programs are ideally suited for seasoned professionals ready to extend their influence.

In addition to the breadth of technical development delivered in an MBA, leadership is at the heart of an Executive MBA. As you study alongside a cohort of professionals with extensive experience, the focus is on uncovering your own journey and understanding the leader you want to be as you seek new perspectives on leadership. You will develop your network and solve business problems within a global context, increasingly characterised by disruption.

Drew Bradford

Drew Bradford (GEMBA '17) Executive General Manager, Fixed Income, Currencies and Commodities, National Australia Bank

“Undertaking the Global Executive MBA at the University of Sydney was an absolute privilege. For me personally, the program embedded a global perspective on the innovation scale across all economies. This program helps to unlock a fresh mindset, intensify strategic capabilities and elevate leadership aspirations beyond the classroom theory – all crucial to shaping business environments that are fluid and challenged by disruption.

“I take with me extraordinary connections from across my cohort and I have developed relationships that I will lean on long after my Global Executive MBA journey.”

The Master of Management

The Master of Management program is similar in style to an MBA, but for a younger market. It’s designed to equip recent undergraduates or young professionals with 1-2 years’ experience from any background with the technical knowledge and personal attributes necessary for a career in management in their chosen field.

In just one year, you will develop the skills that businesses demand, regardless of your previous experience or undergraduate area of study.

Jack Blair

Jack Blair (MMgt '17)

Consultant, Deloitte

You’ll explore the core areas of business activity – from strategy formulation and decision-making to business negotiation and people management. Through practical application and opportunities to work directly with industry, you will graduate with an integrated and future-focussed understanding of all aspects of business activity.

“My experience at the University of Sydney Business School allowed me to find what I was truly interested in and discover my career path. The knowledge and skills I now have will stand me in good stead in the workforce and help me build a successful and fulfilling life.”

Specialised business master's degree

A specialised business master's degree may be the right option for you if you are looking to gain specialised skills in a particular area. While a Master of Management or MBA will cover a broad selection of subjects and provide insight into all areas of business, a specialised degree will allow you to dive deeply into a particular area.

As globalisation continues to put pressure on performance, there is an ongoing demand for employees with expert knowledge and the ability to edge ahead of the competition. For individuals who are interested in specialising, looking to upskill or jump into a new industry, a specialised master's degree can provide the right ingredients.

Jessie Hu

Jessie Hu Master of Professional Accounting '15, Accountant, KPMG Australia

“I chose the University of Sydney Business School for its international reputation and connections to industry. I have completed internships in Singapore and Hong Kong worked on a consulting project in Nepal through the Community Placement Program and participated in the Deloitte NEXT Innovation Program.

“All these opportunities not only equipped me with technical skills and real-world experience, but they are also shaping my career.”

More information

Whatever your career aspirations, there is a wide range of postgraduate business courses on offer. For more information, follow the links below:

*The figures are based on a survey with US companies. Find out more.
**Industries and salary data for Master of Management (MMgt) graduates are taken from the Survey of Completing MMgt students 2016/17. The survey is conducted within the first year of the graduates’ completion of the degree. Industries and salary data for Specialised Business Masters, MBA and the Global Executive MBA are from the Graduate Outcomes Survey 2016. 2015 graduates are surveyed 4-6 months after completion. Please note that graduate industries and salaries relate to domestic alumni only.

Related news